Old Ballantruan: The Peated Malt (Scottish Speyside Single Malt Whisky: 50% ABV)
Visual:Light yellowed gold.
Viscosity: Slow thin puckering from the spirit.
Nose: Peat smoke, steak, soft cherries. Noticeable alcohol but mostly smooth. Vanilla toffee and caramel. Apricot. Touch of charcoal. Light menthol. Water adds light pencil shavings, more soothing and floral.
Body: Smooth, quite light front that grows into peat smoke. Slight golden syrup. Oak. Alcohol grows quickly. Toffee sweetness. Lime syrup. Apricot and peach. Water soothes alcohol. Adds vanilla custard. Light charring. Big smoke and peat. Light cherry pocked biscuits.
Finish: Charring and charcoal dust. Peat smoke. Beef crisps. Sweet lime syrup. Beef broth, Peach. Water adds custard crème biscuits. Slightly dry. Peppered beef slices. Malt toffee chocolate drinks. Peppermint.
Conclusion: Huh, I shouldn’t get my conclusion all lined up in my head too early on it seems, at least for this whisky. The first couple of sips I had of this made me all ready to say that the “Gentle Dram” just couldn’t provide enough body to go the peated route. I was going to say that it came in so thin that the punch of the peat pushed all the lighter notes away leaving it empty but harsh. Yeah, that changed. Massively.
Slowly, and especially with water, the gentle notes started building up against the peat. A good sweetness, soft fruit, all behind the big beafy peat – but as the lighter notes grew, the less harsh the peat seemed. I guess I should have realised this was to come; The aroma at the front, though alcohol touched, was smooth and complex and that is often a good guideline of the whisky to come.
While time does help, I think water is the real game changer. The 50% abv gives a lot of room for water, going through sweet and fruity, to floral and slightly peppermint finished depending on the amount of water added. The more you add, the more the base Tomintoul style notes are evident as it rises to match the peat. A very nice match of peat intensity to fruity whisky without compromising either. So, yeah, first impressions can be very wrong.
Background: Never heard of an Old Ballantruan distillery? That is because this is from Tomintoul – however since they are very well known for their gentle spirit this is their name for their more peated editions. I grabbed this as part of a set of miniatures when grabbing a bottle of whisky from The Whisky Exchange. Since this is no longer “The Gentle Dram” I went to Brute Force by The Algorithm for listening music. It amused me to do so.